The season of darkness is here: can you feel it? Pitch black mornings, early bedtimes, sleepy bodies and the invitation to be still and rest.
The paradigm of darkness is a part of the Universal rhythms that humans have witnessed since the beginning of time.
Looking out to the ether year after year they saw that there was a phenomenon happening:
Things would get
and then some miraculous force would bring the Earth back to life again.
And around and around it would go, year after year, season after season.
Surely humans had learned, with time and experience, that they could have faith in this pattern: that every year would be like this and that they could trust in this miraculous unfolding no matter what.
But you can imagine that in the times of darkness, disease, death, and food shortage, humans would need stories and traditions to support them: to hold them up, to remind them that the darkness was only one part of the human experience and that this part would not last forever.
That’s why the season of darkness and Light is discussed in nearly every spiritual tradition all over the world, reminding us that while darkness is inevitable it is never the end of the story: that the Light never leaves us and always continues to expand itself without our doing.
As a Christian by background, my mind always wanders to the Jesus story (which I actually think is the Mary story) this time of year.
Can you imagine getting told by an angel that a miraculous birth would happen through you, in a dark time and a dark world amidst dark people who would not truly understand it?
Unmarried, unsure, alone, and probably wondering if she was borderline insane, Mary’s faith in the angelic guidance she received allowed her to continue to follow the still small voice, through the most extreme of circumstances.
And let’s think for a moment about the RIDICULOUS devotion it must have taken for Joseph to believe her, to trust what she *heard*, to stand by her side and walk with her through the darkness, keeping his eyes on the Light for both of them.
I’ve been thinking a lot about faith lately as, truthfully, mine has suffered in the last several years.
I’ve wondered: is it callous and unfeeling to have faith in a greater good amidst racial injustice, sex scandals, climate change, political division, and so much fear?
Maybe faith is for the birds?
Is faith an essential ingredient in my embodied human experience?
Is it necessary to keep my mind focused on the inherent intelligence of the Universe,
the essential goodness of humanity (beneath fear-based behaviors),
and our God-given ability to keep learning, adapting and growing as a people amidst adversity?
Buddhist teacher, Sharon Salzberg, says faith does not have to be based in dogma or a difficult-to-understand deity, but that true faith can be found in our lived experience of witnessing darkness turn to light, difficulties somehow making *sense* in the long run.
Jesus attests to this saying time and time and time again that those who experienced his healing had done so because “their faith had saved them.”
Not his power.
Not the angels.
Not some magic herbal remedy.
Their faith had saved them.
Now let me me clear: FAITH is not spiritual bypass, ignoring the challenges and pretending they will just fix themselves.
Rather, it's BEING in them knowing that we have within us the power to move through and grow from whatever we are experiencing.
The yoga tradition teaches that the only three things we have control over in this universe are our thoughts, our actions and our words.
That while we cannot control what’s going on “out there” we can work to attend to what’s going on “in here” (which is why we practice) and that practicing love, peace, joy, and an inner experience of faith is how it is made manifest in the world.
They also say that this cannot be done alone (trust me, I’ve tried to keep my eyes on the Light by myself and damn it’s hard and kinda boring).
They say that we need a sangha (or a group) to hold us and remind us of the Light when we have difficulty finding it for ourselves: that collective healing energy is part of God’s Divine Design for humanity.
That’s what church, at its essence, is: a co-creative web of Grace that holds us in the ups and the downs of the human experience
If you need a place to go to find the Light and strengthen your faith in it this Holiday Season, Women’s Church is here for you.
Learn more at erinalexander.org.
We start this Sunday at 5p PT, classes recorded for those who can’t join live.
Bring your beautiful hearts, your mats, your comfy clothes, your tea and your journal. We are here for you.
With great respect and love, Erin
After nearly a year long sabbatical of deep self healing, growth, learning and expansion, I am ready (and excited!) to take the sacred seat of yoga teacher once again.
Wild Women’s Church is something that I’ve felt our society has been desperately NEEDING since I was a little girl.
So much of modern spirituality was designed by men and for men -- and while I love men and find incredible value in learning from a variety of world religions -- I ALSO see that what most women need goes much deeper than what’s been offered to us.
Wild Women’s Church is my answer to this prayer for something more.
The class is a trauma-informed movement and meditation practice designed to help you see yourself CLEARLY (as a lovable, Divine being).
to unearth your inner wisdom,
to build courage, confidence, and self-compassion,
to love, honor and inhabit your body, and
to feel like the belong exactly as you are.
This is not a place that you come to CHANGE yourself (although, from my experience, positive changes are inevitable), but rather a place you come to love, honor, and accept yourself, exactly as you are.
And while the term *wild* scared me when it first came to me, it seems absolutely appropriate for this class: to be wild means to be undomesticated: to be free of the cultural conditioning that tell us we have to be something other than what we already are in order to be holy, in order to be good.
You see, according to mystics, NOTHING needs to be added to make you holy.
You are considered HOLY from the start:
holy with your anger,
your half-shaven legs,
your big, round belly,
your tears, your laughter,
and your unprocessed grief,
Still holy. Always holy. Never not holy.
The practice is designed to help you remember that holiness and let go of whatever is holding you back from radiating it out to the world.
Last weekend I had the pleasure of pulling out dead things from my garden which has become a spiritual practice for me: slowly attuning to the land and discerning what wants to go and what wants to stay. It’s a little nerve-wrecking if I think about it too much: the lives of innocent plant-life resting in my fumbly hands.
But once I get going it’s life-giving: discerning what no longer has life force and consciously cutting it away. I (admittedly) get a high from piling up the dead things with my dirt-stained fingers and seeing all the space I’ve just created in the soil.
As a child, I liked thinking of God as an intelligent gardener, taking away what’s no longer serving me so She can make new things.
I used to just... sit around … waiting to be pruned, stuffing my truth and hoping (fingers crossed) that that maladaptive friendship would just fizzle or my unhealthy ex would just LEAVE already and I could scoot out the back door while no one was watching.
As I mature, I now realize that while God might be the gardener, I am Her apprentice holding a pair of human-sized shears in my own two hands.
Growing into an almost 40 year old woman has taught me that while death will find me on Her own accord no doubt, sometimes I am the one who must choose what will die:
having the courage to tell that uncomfortable truth
or walk away from a former commitment that doesn’t feel right
or say no to social media scrolling (even though it constantly sings its siren song).
I’m learning that I can reorient the trajectory of my life with every choice I make, according to what feels right for me.
This realization is hard when you have fumbly girl hands that are just learning how to hold pruning shears (that’s why Divine guidance is highly recommended ;)). But I’m learning that being in *Choice* is a necessary part of living a healthy, happy life that is in alignment with who I really am and what I really want.
Trust me, as a recovering addict, I LOVE to cling to things: comfort, people, adoration, old habits, thoughts and behaviors. But I’m learning that doing so is one of the most direct ways I cause myself harm.
And when I can just SURRENDER to the process of letting things go rather than resisting it, I’ve found that what looks like death initially is simply a part of a constantly unfolding process of transformation that my human mind may never fully understand.
God has surprised me multiple times by bringing an old friendship back in a new, more life-giving way, unearthing an old skill I thought I’d never need again, resurrecting my once rocky marriage into a more genuine one: new plants -- surprisingly -- growing in the compost pile.
Yoga is often called a practice that prepares us for the big-D death (which we all will face some day) assuring us that clinging to anything in this world is a one-way ticket to suffering. We are reminded that, while the ever-changing tapestry of life is meant to be experienced and enjoyed, God is the one stable source on which we can rely.
That’s why the practice is so profound: it connects us to the eternal Divine Self rather than encouraging us to look for stability in the shape-shifting world of form.
This week, I let go of three major things that were weighing me down -- taking up room in my schedule, draining me of time and money, and taking me away from my kids -- and while I was scared and shaky at first, I meditated, prayed, wound my fumbly fingers around the shears, and went for it.
And it feels incredible.
Fall is an excellent time to ask what is losing its life force for me? What feels heavy -- as if it’s too much to keep holding -- and what’s keeping me from letting it go? What if my freedom is on the other side of the boundaries that I am feeling called to set?
What I know for sure is that, as the Buddha says, you as much as anyone else in this Universe are worthy of your own love and attention. You have permission to keep pruning your life in a direction that’s in alignment with your deepest core values and brings you a deep sense of joy and purpose.
I wish you the courage to keep choosing what’s in alignment for you as we move into the season of death, deep renewal, and reset.
In love and sisterhood,
P.S. As I have alluded to in my past emails, my business (my marriage, my body, and my family life ;)) have all been in their own transformative death and resurrection process over the last year: you can read the story here.
This morning Maple asked me, with a furrowed brow, about what’s going to happen to all those “bad kids” come Xmas morning.
She’s worried because rumor has it that somewhere out there those poor bad kids are really in for it with ole Santy.
“Mom,” she pleaded, “Christmas is only 4 days away and I just feel like we need to help them.”
I have to admit that those “you’d better watch out” songs feel wrong to me as a mother intent on raising girls who can embrace their inevitable “badness” with compassion.
It made me realize that those sneaky subconscious tunes have wired me to fear my own “badness” since birth.
And, having spent most of my life as a closet addict, I’ve sort of always known, without a doubt, how “bad” I was.
You see when you’re hiding heavy things, your brain is sorta wired to constantly keep track of all the “bad things” you’ve done:
those extra sweets you sneak,
those drinks you drank,
the secret spending you did.
And although I hid them well, they lived on a secret spreadsheet deep in my subconscious.
I’ve spent the last twenty years of my life unwinding these knots, but everywhere I go in the modern world I am inundated with reminders of my badness: not rich enough, not fit enough, not fast enough, not famous enough -- acutely aware of those one or two or seventeen more things I need to finally reach the finish line.
When I skeptically found my way to a yoga mat twenty years ago, I was carrying that secret spreadsheet of my mistakes (which was not so secretly appearing as my exhaustion, tight hips, belly bulge, and heavy heart).
I was usually late for class and snuck into an open spot in the back, where I could silently sweat, stretch, (and cry) my way out of all the inner demons that were demolishing me.
And after each practice, to my complete surprise, I found myself falling into the arms of a wide and wordless Grace that had always been there, moment after moment, breath after breath, in my goodness and badness, with nothing but endless love for my scattered, self-conscious self.
While I had grown up hearing about God in my head, yoga gave me a place to feel Her endless love in my messy and slowly melting heart.
And that is how I healed.
What’s ironic to me is that the essence of the Christmas story is not a shameful one, although the Santa songs tell us otherwise; rather, it’s a message of utter goodness: God climbing down into the tiniest of bodies to show us that no matter how dirty or simple or poor a human might be: she is holy, she is Divine.
You see, humans USED to think of themselves as merely fleshy animals, full of faults: violent, selfish, greedy, proud.
But, NO, the Christmas story assures us: you, my love, are so much more than what you once believed yourself to be.
To me, this is the purpose of the practice, to awaken and strengthen my connection to that holy place within me where I can feel and know that despite all appearances, I am constantly cradled by compassion, fumbling my way through an eternal Divine Dance.
And so, in Maple terms, I tried to explain that we're all a little naughty and we are all a little nice.
That life is hard and we all do things we're not always proud of to cope with it.
And that life is also beautiful and deep down humans are innocent and good.
She pondered these things and with a knowing look said "I always knew the naughty list wasn't true, Mom."
In the New Year, I’ll be sharing all that I’ve learned through my personal healing journey with two powerful online opportunities:
- a weekly, 45 minute therapeutic movement class that will include dancing, yoga and meditation, and
- a supportive women’s circle called the Soul Power Sisterhood
It would be an honor to support you on your healing journey in the coming year if either of these feels like a *yes* for you.
My deepest wish is that this Christmas is a reminder of the incredibly good news: that no matter what you have or don’t have, did or didn’t do, you are a precious, Divine child who is loved, seen, forgiven and here for a potent purpose.
With endless love,
How is everyone doing out there? I personally have been fluctuating through moments of high highs (where I see the incredible possibility embedded in these times) and low lows (days where I am exhausted, emotional, frustrated and lacking in strength and hope).
Many of us sensitive souls have always known, though, on a soul-level that the current culture we're swimming in -- based on fear, control and dominance over others, ourselves and the Earth -- is not sustainable.
That while it may feel predictable, just like that nightly beer or five, it's hurting and harming us individually and collectively.
I feel so grateful that many people are waking up to this truth: for we cannot get better until we admit that we are sick.
It reminds me of the moment when I realized that the co-dependent, toxic world I created with my long-time ex was going to kill me if I stayed. That the patterns that were unconsciously running us made us both miserable, sick and depressed.
As this truth became apparently clear one night at the bar with my girlfriends, I felt incredibly sad, scared and EXCITED.
Could there be a different way?
Could I create something NEW?
Could there possibly be LIFE after this unnerving death?
Miraculously meeting and marrying my soulmate Shawn, birthing two incredible children with him and successfully working my dream career are proof that YES, NEW life, in fact, IS POSSIBLE.
But before I could get here, I had to go through the grueling death process first, letting go of the comfortable yet lethal patterns that had been my "normal" for so long. As I walked through this personal crucifixion, I had to watch everything I once identified with fade: old friends, old habits, my old apartment, my free dry-cleaning service (a handy benefit of this partnership ;)), and my status as this man's partner.
While it was painful and sad and emotionally exhausting, from the other side, I can tell you, as my mother once assured me, that it was SO worth it.
Through it I became so clear on what I DID NOT want, so that I could start to awaken to WHAT I DID WANT which was partnership, honesty, respect, gentleness, courage, and connection.
I got SO SO clear on what this potential future partner would be like that I refused to settle for anything less than him. Bad date after bad date could not get me down because I knew, for certain, that a new partner was on his way. My mind was made up.
And so, God, in Her infinite creative wisdom said, "YEEEEEES! That's what I'm talking about" as She got to work on birthing him into Being and miraculously dropping him on my path.
What if this time we are in is the perfect opportunity BREAK UP with our past?
To move through all the big emotions that come with the break-up FIRST, helping us each get clear on all that we DO NOT WANT so that, together, we can get clear on what WE DO WANT?
What if, together, we are beginning to imagine that there could be a different way that we had originally considered possible?
That we're not POWERLESS, but POWERFUL midwives of this SOMETHING ELSE we've always wanted?
This is the power of the yoga practice: giving us the tools to calm, harness and connect with the creative power of our minds, bodies and Souls so that EACH of us become conscious co-creators of a new reality instead of being victims, bystanders, and haters just trying to scoot through life without ever really living.
Content Warning: Miscarriage / Racial Injustice
Over the last few weeks, my mind has become obsessed with all of the "out there" problems that I cannot change, ruminating on everything that needs fixing, healing and growth here.
So much to do, so little time on Earth.
As a born helper it's easy for me to feel overwhelmed and ill-equipped to deal with these current times.
That's when, thankfully, I started listening to the incredible audiobook My Grandmother's Hands, written by Resmaa Menakem who is a body-based trauma specialist.
His work, based on years of clinical practice with people of all cultures and backgrounds in addition to solid research, affirms what I've felt so deeply about worldly healing: that lasting change starts within each of us, particularly through our bodies.
You see, in our cells, we each carry the instinctual memories, behaviors, patterns and wounds of our ancestors' lived experiences as humans. These wordless patterns that live in black-bodies and white-bodies of both thought and behavior are downloaded into our DNA prior even to birth. And so we literally carry behaviors of the great great great grandparents many of us have never even heard about.
When I was pregnant, I was CERTAIN that neither of my girls would live beyond the womb. It was the most ridiculous thought-pattern: every scan was healthy, every doctor visit normal.
But this was a VISCERAL feeling in my body.
During that time, I was studying yoga therapy and learning about this very concept when I realized that I was carrying my Grandmother's unhealed trauma from her horrifying stillbirth experience -- in my cells.
My body REMEMBERED that wordless story, just as she remembers many others: stories about how to survive: what is safe. what is not safe. what to do to get food, shelter, love and attention. And what NOT to do so as to avoid the unbearable loss of those things.
Most of these body-based behaviors and beliefs are unconscious: automatic, you could say.
That's probably why I've been in the pantry WAAAAY more than usual lately during this intense time: grabbing a chocolate here, there and everywhere. As much as my MIND might disagree with it, this coping strategy of self-soothing wth food LIVES in me as cellular, ancestral memory.
And when I look out to all of the things that upset me about "those people out there" (domination, violence, betrayal and "othering,") I can see that -- although it's extremely hard to do so -- many of those behaviors that created this world in which we live, LIVE in me, too.
I know you think that's crazy.
I'm a yogi. A do-gooder. A mindful mama.
I study spirituality and compassion for a living.
But I still think violent thoughts about my beloved body when I look at her in the mirror.
On a bad day, I dominate and shame my children for their innocent behaviors.
And yes, sadly, I have betrayed the people I love the most just to save my own ass.
Menakem confirms this: that the patterns that got us here, in this version of the America in which we live are INNER behaviors that are expressing themselves externally, creating the world that we are seeing "out there."
That's why these external events keep happening over and over and over again. NOT because we don't WANT change. Not because we don't KNOW better. But because our body-based nervous system reactions simply are stuck in old, unconscious patterns.
That's why Jesus begs us to STOP judging one another.
To forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.
I used to be embarrassed and ashamed of believing that my yoga practice was one of the most potent ways to be of service to the planet. Like thinking that way was some sort of new-age, woo-woo bullshit.
But now I see and understand how and why starting from within, before we take any form of external action, is the only way out of this mess.
Yes, of course we need top-down change, but MORE importantly I think we need bottom up change.
I believe DEEPLY in the change that starts from turning our violent, fearful, animalistic patterns into ones that are empathetic and compassionate towards ourselves and those around us. For I can ONLY give out to the world whatever I've cultivated within myself.
What if, together, we continued to tame the wild demons that keep us separate, scared and segregated?
What if we believed so viscerally that WE MATTER that together we agree to unwind the many ways we each unconsciously cause both others and ourselves harm?
Menakem assures that real healing and transformation starts in the BODY and in safe spaces where we feel held, heard and accepted just the way we are.
That's the power of what we do together, friends.
Using these profound tools, we transform the body, calm and quiet the negative mind and become compassionate bodies that begin to pour a new energy out into this hurting world (which is our karma yoga practice).
During my days as a high school English teacher, our department had four main goals for student learning: reading, writing, speaking and listening.
As a naïve 20-something newbie, I remember feeling intrigued and confused by the last one: LISTENING.
Did listening actually have to be taught?
If so, how?
And of all the skills to teach, how did this one make the top four?
But now, as a 37 yr old lonely, occasionally depressed stay-at-home mother, I long to be surrounded by real listeners, and I now get how rare they actually are.
Since the horrific death of George Floyd, my teachers are all talking about this mysterious skill – LISTENING. Many of them no longer posting their own perceptions of reality, but handing their mics over to BIPOC who are dying for us to have a listen to what things have been like from their side of the invisible wall that keeps us separate.
I have hope that many of us have been shaken enough to, at least for awhile, step over to the wall, open the window, and really listen to what’s going on over there.
Last week, ironically but not surprisingly, as I am considering this skill of listening, I found myself in an uncomfortable disagreement with a woman whom I’ve had tension with since we first met.
Truthfully, I am jealous.
She radiated confidence, inner resilience and self-assuredness at a time when I was weak, fatigued, insecure, and unable to make complete sentences. This jealousy causing me, embarrassingly, to be her #1 silent critic from afar.
Most recently, we had a text exchange that threw me over the freaking edge. I responded to her curtly with an “okay, no problem.”
You know, the perfect “I’m pissed but I’m not really going to say it” text.
To which she replied “Can we talk?”
This was the moment we’d all be waiting for.
I gave myself a few days to get my head straight, to really feel into WHAT it was that made me so upset about our interactions. And then, with shaky hands and a racing heart, I called her.
She was ready to listen.
And once I started talking, it all just fell out. All of the ways I felt her judging me, not accepting me for who I really am: the many ways that she made me feel on edge and insecure and as if I was not enough.
“Are you done?” she asked, listening intently.
“I thiiiink so,” I stammered anxiously.
To my great surprise, she started laughing.
“This is so funny,” she said. “Because I feel really judged by you, too.”
She went on to tell me her perceptions of me, from the other side of the invisible wall. How she felt me looking down upon the way that she went through the world and how shitty it felt to her, too.
As the truth came out, it became apparently clear that everything I couldn’t stand about her were traits that I had not made peace with about my own behaviors, habits, and inner gifts.
The unreal stories my mind was telling about her melted away as the REAL story of her experience poured out.
My heart opened.
My eyes cleared.
And I began to see her – the real her – for the first time.
All because of listening.
While this conversation was super uncomfortable, it allowed me to see MY blindspots and MY judgements instead of blaming and shaming the unreal "other" who is my friend.
The art of listening is not glamorous.
No one gets major credit or Facebook likes or publicity for being an observer, a witness, for remaining curious and non-judgmental. Well, except for the Dalia Lama or Jesus perhaps.
But my favorite people on this planet are the ones who listen, with curiosity, to what it’s like to be me. To wonder what it's like to live in this skin, with this past, these emotions and insecurities and passions.
This experience has inspired me to be a fervent listener during this time. To open my mind to podcasts, documentaries, books and people that I don’t normally listen to. To be curious. To question my thoughts. To better understand. To crawl into another’s skin and walk around in it as Atticus Finch suggested.
I have been humbled and inspired, saddened and hopeful.
I want to know who is on the other side of the wall of my white privilege. I want to know what it’s like to be them. This feels like the natural first step to seeing our oneness and to moving forward together.
While I know that there is no way I will ever be able to dismantle the centuries of pain that BIPOC experience, I am not giving up on doing my part. I believe that we change this universe one small act, relationship, conversation, and connection at a time.
In hopes that it might be of service, I’m sharing my most recent process (inspired by Rev. Michael Beckwith) below:
FEEL: let your initial big emotions move through you however they’d like. What’s working for me now is verbally processing with friends and mentors that I feel safe with, going on nature walks, journaling, and moving my body.
PRAY: if you feel deep in your bones that you want to be part of this movement toward healing racial wounds, ask to be shown how YOU personally can be of service. Let the Divine GUIDE you instead of your guilt and fear.
LISTEN: Keep your eyes, ears and heart open to the people, books, podcasts, groups, etc. that you intuitively feel drawn toward. Trust your inner guide to show you what is yours to do.
TRUST in your IMPACT no matter how small: what you say to your kids, how you treat BIPOC in front of them, what you’re talking about, listening to, supporting, etc. ALL create universal waves in the pool of our collective consciousness. You matter.
KEEP THE FAITH: As Jesus says, faith the size of a mustard seed can move a mountain. Notice the changes you are seeing. Notice people coming together. Imagine the future you are longing for and know that this, too, has a powerful impact on the whole.
Here are the resources that are helping me right now:
- Short, straight-forward series of 14 podcasts on Seeing White: https://www.sceneonradio.org/seeing-white/
- Woman run, year-long body-based book study on dismantling the inner realms of racism: https://www.rootedandembodied.com/somatic-abolitionism-12-month-study?fbclid=IwAR2T9Qr9mHtPoI3YXRCdbgkg32O7NKHvsX6DPVLF2PrdIuYpfTHvNm1_zVw
- 13th: A Netflix Documentary on understanding the history of black-based mass incarcerations: https://www.netflix.com/title/80091741
Tomorrow we join to practice making our minds stretchier through bodily movement so that we can practice inner listening, as yoga teaches that all changes start from within. Listening is one of the most powerful reasons to come to the mat. As we get to know ourselves better, we can better understand and empathize with those around us.
As always, I invite you into conversation with me as I navigate these unstable waters of speaking more clearly about tender issues and dismantling ourselves from the systems that are harming us individually and collectively. I know that I am not perfect and have plenty of blindspots. Feel free to reply to me personally if you are seeing any of them.
With love and humility,
Here's the truth: I am a closet people pleaser. Like, the worst.
I think I burst out of the womb with an invisible, full body "PLEASE LOVE ME" tattoo.
"I'll do anything, okay?" I begged. "Dress how you want. Talk how you want. Be who you want. Just please, please love me. Please don't leave me."
And so, like a pavlovian dog, I was trained to be exactly who society expected: rewarded when I fit their "good" girl mold, and banished when I did not.
I learned, one reward and punishment at a time, who to be in order to get the love I longed for, and most importantly, what parts of me would never, ever, ever be acceptable here.
You know, like the loud part. The angry part. The chubby part. The emotional part. The intuitive part. The honest part. The sensitive part. The slow part. The insecure part.
And, you guys, I CRUSHED it: pushing my deplorable parts down and down and down with food, fake friends, and the fantasy world of television.
No wonder I barely remember high school.
No wonder I felt half alive.
And although I had many gifts that still managed to peek out of my weighty costume, math was not one of them. Especially geometry.
But since my older sister was a genius and I wanted nothing more than to be exactly like her, I decided to try pretending I was smart, too. Yep, sign me for alllll the smart kids classes... that one there... Honors Geometry?!? SUUUUURE, I can do that, no problemo.
Well, the truth is that I am the rightiest, right brain there ever was. The truth is I had no business being in that room. But the truth was not safe.
And so I spent every 5th period with a smile plastered on my face, pretending to take notes, pretending to understand. Pretending... pretending... pretending, while slowly dying inside.
But, as karma would have it, my first test came back with nothing but the truth: 52% with Please See Me scribbled on top. I had never scored so low in my entire life. Wrapped in shame, I told my parents. Wrapped in shame, I dragged myself into Mr. Engebretsen's room after school one dismal day.
Something about the warmth of his smile, the kindness in his eyes and his occasional laughter told me that maybe, just maybe he was safe. That maybe, just maybe, I could slowly unzip my costume. That maybe, just maybe, I could tell him the truth.
And after he proved himself worthy of this treasure, I did. My dirty little secret bursting like a bullet when I was ready to release it. "Errr, Mr. Engebretsen, ummmm, you see, the REAL problem is that I totally and completely suck at math."
And do you know what he said?
Not, you disgust me.
Not, get out of here you unworthy heathen.
Not even, get your deplorable self down to regular math.
No, do you know what that angel man said?! "No problem. Let's get to work. I specialize in teaching kids how not to suck at math."
I think right there, in that moment, I instantly lost ten pounds. More breath found its way in. My relieved body relaxed. THIS, my friends, is the power of truth-telling.
And so every day, I came to Mr. Engebretsen's room, probably longing for the feeling of safety he exuded even more than his brilliant, relatable instruction.
Protected by his love and support and belief in me, things started to change. I actually, can you believe it, started LIKING math... you know, GETTING it... and SUCCEEDING at it. Fast forward three months and lo and behold I got my first 99%. We were both so incredibly proud of me.
And while Mr. Engebretsen is no longer in his Earthly body, my Soul will forever remember the lesson that he came to teach me: that the truth will set you free, love.
That truth-telling is the impetus of healing.
That magic nearly explodes into the world right along with it.
But in a white-washed world where the prerequisite to the "cool club" is posturing, pedicures, and people pleasing, NO WONDER we hide and vanish and mask our true selves: having fake conversations with fake people while wearing fake costumes and fake faces, secretly, silently soothing ourselves with screens, shopping and sugar.
But I have a dream, that one day this fake world will end.
That one day, every man and woman can embrace their full humanity, their imperfect bodies, and all of their big, beautiful human feelings.
I have a dream that one day we can weep and laugh and truth tell and rest together, without apology.
That we will see and be seen for who we really are, receiving both ourselves and each other with the same tenderness and compassion that Mr. Engebretsen gave my masked and manipulated self.
I have a dream that somewhere out there, a world exists where the innate worth of every single human is nonnegotiable: untouchable by suffocating, superficial measuring sticks.
And on a quiet day, I see this world being birthed into being. Right now, in fact.
On a good day, when I come up for air, I see Her in my weary neighbors walking my streets with no where to go, no masks to wear, and nothing to hide from each other.
This Sunday, I am honored to teach you about the power of truth-telling (or satya) and the practices that have supported me in getting comfortable and clear with my inconvenient truths.
Together, we will attend to your holy human self just as you are, tending to your tender body, opening your neck and shoulders and gently encouraging the throat to release whatever it may be keeping in in order to keep you safe.
I see and honor your journey, however and where ever you are.
This time away from everyday life has made me soooo acutely aware of myself and my imperfections (... anyone else?).
There are parts of that has been really nice, and also parts that are extremely difficult.
All those shadowy behaviors that I easily ignore when I'm busy -- saying things I don't really mean, zoning out on social media, sneaky snaking sweets, snapping at my kids and then beating myself up for it -- are all here for me to look at.
There's no where to run.
Nothing to distract me from myself.
And in a way, I know that this is part of the healing that's being asked of us collectively: the opportunity to see what's really here so that we can choose differently for the future.
But, daaang, it can be a lot to look at at once.
And every time I bring my frazzled, disoriented self to my mat, and finally sit still, what I hear is: "It's okay, beloved, I'm right here. It's okay beloved, try again."
God an eternally patient Mother, right here with me, never judging or doubting my progress or abilities.
Like babies trying to walk in a brand new world, we are ALL navigating new territory and that can be both overwhelming and, as psychologists know very well, can trigger the old coping strategies that we thought we once mastered to rise to the surface yet again.
Listen, I've tried the breathing techniques.
The magic yoga postures.
I've journaled and walked in nature and called friends.
And while all of those coping skills are extremely helpful in their own ways, nothing has helped me more than the sacred practice of forgiving myself (or rather, resting in the ocean of compassion that lies beyond my thinking mind).
This weekend, I'm excited to share some of the transformative tools I've learned for softening and healing the heart: mindfulness, self-compassion, heart-opening practices, and deep deep stillness.
I share my imperfections with you only to mirror the messy process we are all in as we join together in this journey of becoming new. To let you know that if you, too, are looking your imperfections straight in the eye, you're not alone.
Looking back, I can see now that everything I've been through has been preparing me for this time: gifting me with the tools that have brought me back to the Love that's always here -- even and ESPECIALLY when I am a hot mess. It is an honor to now share them with you, too, as we brave the wilderness together.
With love and deep compassion,
The ancient yogis saw clearly that we are not separate from God.
That within each of us, there lis a Divine Spark where all the answers lie, waiting there like a buried treasure, to guide and support us through each season of our lives.
The technology of yoga is an ancient system DESIGNED to strengthen that connection by detoxifying challenging emotions, quieting racing thoughts and calming body tension so that the deeper answers can be revealed to us.
In a world of disappointing politics, hierarchical religions, and self-serving leaders, I am continually reminded that trying to find the answers from thousands of unstable external sources is complete madness: that the most reliable place to go for guidance is within the soul.
Not to the news.
Not to my husband (although I do appreciate his perspective -- occasionally ;)).
Not to Facebook.
But within the depths of my inner-most being.
What if each of us had a Divine role to play in these times?
And what if we ALREADY have everything we need inside of us to fulfill it?
And what if this collective challenge is the perfect opportunity to lean more deeply into our inner-most wisdom, together?
I hope you can feel my love and support wherever and however you are. We will get through this, one breath at a time, and will no doubt come out of stronger and wiser and closer than before.
Yoga Teacher and Student, Speaker, Writer, Mother, Wife, Friend, Daughter, Sister, Human